Post-winter woes.

Adding another winter of not washing and daily driving my bird (on top of probably every other winter it has ever seen) has resulted in, you guessed it, rust and rot holes! Vacuuming out some dirt from my floorpan a few weeks ago, I noticed a rusty area in front of the rocker panel by the front edge of the driver’s door. Some gentle tapping revealed a small hole … a little more tapping led to a large hole … and so on until arriving at the ugly mess as seen in the picture below. I let it go for a week or so and then figured I may as well take care of the problem.

After removing the front fender and then door, then cutting off the front section of the rocker panel to survey the rest of the damage, I noticed something a little strange: the vertical supports inside the panels were really rotted, but the panels themselves were not in too bad of shape, save the missing portions I had already knocked out. I’m not sure if they used different material for those parts or what, but they were long gone. That’s when I decided to make some “subframe connectors” to stiffen it up in case the rotted supports were actually doing anything. The connectors are basically just 1×1.5x.080 wall steel tubing welded inside the car to the rocker panels (I will do the passenger side later.)  I think this should add a fair amount of support, and should be protected from future damage being inside the car; if the outer panels get bad, it should hold things together until they can be patched up again.

Pretty much all I do for repairs like this, especially if they are mostly not seen, is hack out the rotten sections back to good sheetmetal, then use some cardboard templates to get an idea of the shape I want, then MIG weld in the new panels, piece by piece. It’s  not necessarily the prettiest, but it gets the job done and I’m only going for function. Lots of times, I don’t even try to follow whatever used to be there, I will just pick a shape and go with it that isn’t too difficult to fab using just a vice and a hammer. I didn’t even bother to grind down the visible weld on the rocker panel … I just think of it as a scar. Anyway, I spread this out over about a week and borrowed the 4 door bird to get to work. Here are some before, during, and after pictures of the patch up.

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